There was 2 white belts in class last Wednesday. As I’ve never seen them before, and since they are wearing white, my logical brain classified them as ‘beginners’, and my protocol for handling newbies is to go easy, go slow.
Harry sensei later explained that they are not ‘beginners’ per se, instead they took Aikido many years back and are now back after a long hiatus. And their actual grade is ‘brown’ belt (4th kyu). that will make them moderately proficient students, in my opinion.
Sensei explained his rationale of respect, as some of his students (like myself) has to take a rather long break away from Aikido and return to training once they are available. And as long as they are a day earlier than you are, they will forever be a senior, and under no circumstances be treated as a junior. this is contrary to the Japanese term for ‘teacher’ which actually mean ‘先生‘. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensei) Which loosely means the person who was born first. So it is not about teaching or the student. it is about the pecking order. As long as I am born before you, I will forever be your senior. Period.
This is of course hard to swallow for a person of a senior grade. Which is quite common in my personal experience. I personally have more than 15 Aikido years clocked in my belt and yet I am only a 1st Dan. Hence a person who is a 3rd dan, with about a decade of experience has to acknowledge the ‘senior’ that i am, as i have existed in the Aikido fraternity before the 3rd dan, even though in grade the 3rd dan is before me. This paradox teases our egos and becomes particular acute when we become more senior and we sometimes snickers at a person who is a more senior grade than us and yet do not possess the superior if not similar proficiency compared to us.
So Harry sensei says, Respect the experienced, and respect the grade. both can contribute to each very much to each other. so in this environment, everyone can benefit from each other.